Finally, the White House and Congress have managed to actually accomplish something, whether or not we agree with the result.
However, the bill isn’t exactly controversial. For the first time since ping-pong negotiations over the budget on Monday, the White House announced Friday that it would support a House spending bill that provides back-pay for furloughed federal workers.
“Federal workers keep the nation safe and secure and provide vital services that support the economic security of American families,” the White House said in a statement. “The administration appreciates that the Congress is acting promptly to move this bipartisan legislation and looks forward to the bill’s swift passage.”
The only other House bill that the Senate has approved and President Obama has signed in the last week has been a measure to pay the nation’s military. The White House has threatened to veto every single other bill, as the House pushes a series of separate spending measures meant to fund certain agencies amid the partial government shutdown.
Since the shutdown, the House has voted to fund the National Institutes of Health, the National Guard and Reserve, the National Park Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs. A series of votes are scheduled for Friday, and the bill to retroactively pay furloughed federal workers is on the docket for Saturday.
Though the White House statement in support of that bill could be considered a minor victory for Republicans – who have been pressuring Democrats to approve their separate bills – it did not signal a breakthrough in talks to re-open the government.
“This bill alone, however, will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse, nor will a piecemeal approach to appropriations bills,” the White House said, calling on the House to approve a catch-all spending bill.
Republicans are continuing to insist that Democrats agree to some concessions on ObamaCare in exchange for such a budget bill.
The White House decision to back the measure for furloughed workers, though, does offer Republicans an opening to ask why the president would support that bill, but not bills to fund such vital agencies like the NIH.
There are 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed without pay, which leaves approximately 65% intact not including postal workers, and it would take nothing short of an act of Congress to retroactively pay them for the missed days.
Many more federal employees are working this week without pay – but under the law, they will automatically get paid once a budget deal is reached.